Have you seen ABC’s 20/20 piece recently on veterinarians, entitled Is Your Veterinarian Being Honest With You?
The veterinary profession was called out by one of our own on its practices of recommending unnecessary services that add to the bottom line. Most noted were a couple I’ve been concerned with and have written about for years, dental cleanings and excessive, repeated vaccinations.
The ABC crew brought ostensibly healthy dogs in to several vets to see what they’d be told was “needed” for the dog’s health. As expected, unnecessary procedures were recommended by some, like a full dental cleaning under anesthesia for a bit of tartar on a tooth.
More egregious and far more dangerous was the recommendation for more dog vaccinations in an adult dog vaccinated two years prior. Without even asking the client, one vet was readying the vaccine syringes until called out by the guardian. “Well, distemper is typically an annual vaccine,” was his lame reply, though he did stand down.
You Know More Than 20/20
The 20/20 producers had less information than most of you, dear readers. They were buying the AVMA’s recommendation of vaccinating every three years vs. the common, costly and baseless practice of annual revaccination, called out over twenty years ago by veterinary immunologists.
Sure, every three years is less risky than annual revaccination, but that’s not good enough. You know, by following along on this blog, that “once and done” is the rule for vaccinations, if your animal is vaccinated over four months of age.
The AVMA recommendation is pure waffling for the benefit of Dr. WhiteCoat’s bottom line. Their logic likely goes like this:
If they have to give up the income normally coming from annual vaccinations, they can at least make something by vaccinating every three years.
How much immunology stands behind this policy?
Immunologists have known for well over 20 years that viral vaccines confer a very long duration of immunity (DOI), likely lifelong in most animals.
So, dig a little deeper, 20/20. You’re not doing animal guardians any favors by regurgitating the AVMA guidelines of triennial vaccination “requirements.” We’re calling you out on that one.
We know better.
My Pants Were Not Down! Close That Curtain!
More amusing is the response of Dr. WhiteCoat to the show. He was seriously miffed that anyone would call him dishonest or accuse him of putting profit ahead of animal health!
Here’s some classic responses, gleaned from an industry online magazine, DVM. The article seeks to arm Dr. WhiteCoat with answers to the presumably unhappy questions that will be coming in his practice doors about repeated dog vaccinations and more.
On the question of animals being unnecessarily vaccinated, three “experts” in conventional veterinary practice gave the following response that was offered as a stock reply to any clients confronting their vets over 20/20′s recent allegations:
What to say to clients : In deciding on a personalized vaccination protocol for your pet, we consider your pet’s unique lifestyle risks as well as local law, manufacturers’ directions and established guidelines from organizations like the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners.
“Personalized vaccination protocols?” Who are you kidding?? Do you really think an educated consumer of veterinary medicine is going to believe you’re customizing vaccination recommendations when you vaccinated yearly for so many years?
“Local laws?” There’s only a law for one vaccine, fellas, and most states now say rabies every three years. Where does that leave you with all those distemper combo wombo shots you’ve been giving annually? There are not now and have never been laws about other vaccinations, yet you’ve given the others repeatedly to countless animals for at least the last 25 years.
“Manufacturers’ recommendations?” That’s the lamest excuse of all! The manufacturers labeled their vaccines for annual repetition based solely on profit potential. Did you ever ask the reps selling you the vaccines to see the data that would indicate immunity falls off on day 364 and needs “boosting” on day 365?
Of course you didn’t. You merely used their profit hungry labels to justify your repetition that repeatedly weakened animals’ health but added to your bottom line.
Vaccinations and Longer Life Spans?
More, from the same article: Vaccines are crucial. Vaccines explain why we now have cats and dogs who live into their late teens or even 20s. I’ve seen the life expectancy of the average Labrador retriever go from 9 to 15 or 16 years of age in my career. (Dr. Downing)
This is an old saw, often trotted out in human vaccine debates as well. It turns out, if you look at human statistics, that all the bad diseases of the old days were well in decline before the vaccines ever hit the population. Why? The biggest reason was separating sewage from drinking water. Underpants even played a role.
I suspect we are not seeing anything approaching 15-16 years of age as an “average” in Labs today. I’m sure not seeing it. In 33 years of practice, I’ve seen quite the opposite, in fact.
Most often, I’m seeing animals becoming chronically ill earlier in life than they ever used to become. Arthritis and hypothyroidism in dogs under 4-5 years of age? Animals plagued with horrible allergies that, on testing, show almost nothing they are not allergic to? Dogs tearing holes in their coats and eating their toes? When they start this at age three, what kind of life do they have to look forward to, let alone the life of their caregivers?
The Buck Stops Here (at the tip of the needle)
The blame for this is to be laid squarely at the feet of the vaccinators who had you believing for years that you were a good pet owner if you came in for the recommended shots every time you got a postcard saying “due.” Allergies to fleas and foods and plants is nothing but a confused immune system attacking the body it’s housed in, and nothing confuses an immaculately designed immune system like the injection of viruses, bypassing all the defenses that took millions of years to be built.
No, we’re not buying it, Dr. WhiteCoat. 20/20 may not have had the whole story, but they got a lot of it right. We can only hope there’ll be some humbling that comes from this expose, and the self examination that allows thoughtful people to change their ignorant ways.